MANHATTAN, Kan. — North Dakota State led Kansas State by one point at halftime of Tuesday's season opener. The Bison hung tough with the defending Big 12 regular-season co-champions well into the second half. But when the clock struck zero at Bramlage Coliseum, NDSU walked off the court on the wrong side of a 67-54 decision in Division I nonconference men's basketball.
That wasn't good enough for NDSU head coach David Richman.
"We came here with an expectation to get a 'W,'" Richman said. "We didn't get that done."
The numbers for the Bison (0-1) were startlingly similar half to half. They shot 28% (7 of 25) in the opening 20 minutes, and 30% (8-for-27) after halftime. But the shots that figured so prominently in the first half — the 3-ball — didn't mean as much down the stretch.
"I thought their physicality, their length, their athleticism wore on us in the second half," Richman said. "That was the difference."
Though NDSU only went 5-for-17 from beyond the new, international-length 3-point line in the first half, it was a scorching total compared to K-State (1-0), which missed 11 of its 12 triples.
To begin the contest, however, NDSU itself couldn't buy a shot.
The Bison missed layups. They missed jumpers inside the arc. They missed 3s. But at the 16:32 mark of the half, junior forward Rocky Kreuser got NDSU on the board, knocking down a trey.
The Bison were off and running.
And the good news for them? While NDSU started 0-for-7 from the field, K-State barely scored either, holding just a 5-0 lead prior to Kreuser's 3-pointer.
It was North Dakota State's ability to take advantage of the lines — the free throw and the 3-point — that gave it the edge early on. While the Wildcats shot better from the field (37.5 to 33.3%) and made more shots overall (10 to 7), NDSU's makes simply were more valuable; aside from its aforementioned advantage beyond the 3-point arc, it also held the upper hand at the free throw line, going 3-for-8 compared to the Wildcats, who missed both of their attempts.
When the teams returned to the court for the second half, however, K-State started to exert its will, particularly its upperclassmen trio: junior guard Cartier Diarra (23 points) and seniors Makol Mawien (15) and Xavier Sneed (nine) combined for more than 70% of the team's total points Tuesday.
"I'm a big, big fan of (K-State head) Coach (Bruce) Weber and how he runs his program," Richman said. "I think it's a program — just that — not a team. They've got some young kids. This is a team that's really going to grow. You can see that. Cartier, he's just a tremendous, tremendous talent."
Kreuser led the way for the Bison, scoring 14 points. Tyson Ward (12 points) was the only other NDSU player to finish in double figures.
All four of Kreuser's made field goals were 3-pointers.
That was no coincidence.
"When you have a stretch five who can shoot it as well as he does, it's something that we've obviously focused on," Richman said. "It's something that, depending on a matchup, that we feel very, very good about. We had some of those opportunities here this evening."
Despite the loss, Richman couldn't fault his team's effort. K-State simply presented issues it couldn't solve.
"They just wear on you," Richman said. "It's something that we talked about: Adversity was going to hit. You can't simulate what a Big 12 opponent brings in practice. It just wore on us."
NDSU now returns to Fargo for its home opener, which comes Thursday against Mayville State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Scheels Center.
Richman hopes the team can take some positives into that contest, pointing to "some encouraging things" he saw Tuesday. Like leading at intermission. Or fighting the Wildcats to a draw on the boards, with each team grabbing 39 rebounds apiece.
Richman just wishes those factors had added up to a win.
"I'm very, very careful," Richman said. "We didn't sign up for moral victories. We didn't come in here to get beat by 13 and run out of here with smiles."
NDSU (0-1): Shahid 2-12 2-2 8, Samuelson 2-4 0-0 5, Ward 3-8 5-8 12, Kreuser 4-10 2-4 14, Griesel 2-7 4-7 8, Quayle 0-2 0-0 0, Hunter 0-3 0-0 0, Harden 0-0 0-0 0, Eady 1-5 2-2 4, Wilson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 15-52 (FG), 16-25 (FT).
KSU (1-0): McGuirl 1-3 0-0 3, Mawien 6-12 2-4 15, Diarra 8-21 5-5 23, Sneed 4-11 0-0 9, Murphy 1-2 0-1 2, Gordon 0-2 0-0 0, Gordon 2-2 0-0 5, Stockard 3-4 2-2 8, Slaon 1-4 0-2 2. Totals: 26-61 (FG), 9-14 (FT).
Halftime: NDSU 22, KSU 21. Total fouls: NDSU 18, KSU 16. 3-point goals: NDSU 8-30 (Shahid 2-8, Samuelson 1-3, Ward 1-2, Kreuser 4-7), KSU 6-21 (McGuirl 1-3, Mawien 1-1, Diarra 2-8, Sneed 1-5, Gordon 1-1). Rebounds: NDSU 39 (Griesel 9, Ward 7, Shahid 7), KSU 39 (Mawien 10). Assists: NDSU 10 (Shahid 4), KSU 14 (Diarra 6). Turnovers: NDSU 8 (Shahid 3), KSU 6 (Gordon 3). A—8,145.